There are books, college courses and lots of blog posts about writing for comics. I like to break things down to simple bullet points that outline some common sense items we should all be doing, but forget or take for granted. Here’s my tips on writing my webcomic.
- Syntax. If you don’t know what that word means, then you need to study up on your English courses. Grammar and spelling are the essential keys to success. If you’re not a wizard at these rules, then find someone who is and have them read your work. Nothing turns off readers faster than poorly constructed sentences and misspelled words. Don’t count on software hints for grammar corrections. Know it or have it checked. I personally have an “editor” who reads each of my comics and then slaps me upside the head with corrections.
- Timing. Listen to stand-up comedians and listen to their timing of a punch line. I grew up listening to Bill Cosby and George Carlin, both masters at comedy. Cosby’s story-telling timing is impeccable and even if his comedy is not your cup of tea, then listen for the timing of his jokes and deliver. This is accomplished in comics with character’s pausing in a panel, or even a blank panel.
- Re-visit your work. Write your script(s) and let them sit a day or more. Come back and go with your first impression. If it doesn’t feel right, re-write it. I will draw my comics the night before they are due but I never write them the same day. That is a recipe for disaster and your readers will see right through a rushed comic script.
- Write daily. Write for 30 to 60 minutes a day. Even junk you’ll never use. “It was a dark and stormy night…” and get this stuff out of your system. Like clearing the carburetor on a race car. Clean out the system so you can go full throttle.
- Writer’s Block. Don’t fret writer’s blocks. They come, sometimes often. Find something that clears your mind. For me it is sitting on my deck and watching the farm field behind me. I take some deep breaths and let my mind go blank as I look at the scenery (and farmland ain’t much to look at by the way). But that works for me. Walking, bike riding, doing the dishes, or whatever helps distract your mind. A mind that is stuck remains that way until you push it away from the rut you’re in. I also studied Yoga and learned some techniques that help clean the mind as well of junk thoughts (like paying bills, the jerks at works, etc.).
- Don’t force clever. No one can be funny on demand. Don’t try to be funny, let the situations dictate the comedy. If you’re sitting there going “I need my character to say something clever…” and you can’t think of something, then move on. Use what’s comfortable and come back to it as I stated in #3. Your mind will come up with something clever if it’s in there. Let it come out naturally.
- Write when inspiration hits you. I can knock out weeks of comics in an hour when that something “special” hits me. I cannot predict it, so take advantage of it when it comes. If you’re somewhere that’s impractical for writing (like your job) then try to do bullet points of the ideas. “Bud in bar. Meets Canadians.” Is all I wrote for one comic. Those bullet points brought back my original ideas in full. This is a really handy tool. Short-hand for comic strips!
Share with me what your techniques or suggestions are and we can start up a nice conversation on how we all write out comics! Thanks for reading!